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Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared.
-- Eddie Rickenbacker


The MONTHLY Motivator - August 2006


Unfortunately, it often seems that incompetence is rampant. You run into it on a daily basis. It is unproductive. It is rude. It is disrespectful. It is frustrating. Even though someone may not have malicious intent, if that person is incompetent the resulting problems can be just as bad as if he or she had set out to intentionally do wrong.

Imagine all the great things that could come about, imagine all the problems that would be avoided, if only people could live and work more competently. In any field of endeavor, competent people are constantly in demand. You don’t have to be a genius to be competent. You don’t have to be an expert. You must simply be capable of successfully doing what needs to be done. It’s not difficult or complicated. Competence is a matter of commitment and discipline. It’s a matter of focus and awareness. Anyone can be competent if he or she chooses to be, and does what is necessary to live and work with competence.

So what does it take to be competent? Let’s examine some of the key ingredients for expanding and encouraging competence in yourself and others.

Care about what you’re doing

Commitment is essential to competence. The work that you’re doing should be just as important to you as it is to the person for whom you’re working -- whether that person is your employer, your client, your client’s customer, or anyone who stands to benefit from your effort. No matter what skills or knowledge or expertise you may possess, it is absolutely essential that you care about what you’re doing as much as do those people who will be affected by your work. You must care about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. You can have all the necessary ingredients for competence, but without being genuinely invested it is nothing more than empty arrogance.

Keep in mind that caring is more than just saying you care or appearing to care. When you truly care, there’s no need to announce it -- the results speak for themselves.

Develop an understanding of the big picture, and where you fit in

When your focus is only inward, your competence suffers because you fail to consider the full implication of what you’re doing. The fact is, your actions do not occur in a vacuum. Beyond your own perspective, there is a larger perspective. The things you do affect the lives of others. You are part of a greater whole.

Expand your horizons. Learn to look at the big picture. What will happen to the report you’re working on, after it leaves your hands? How will the product you’re designing be used by the people who purchase it? What problems and challenges do others face, and how can your expertise make a difference for those people? Keep in mind that the things you do have an influence that goes far beyond your own perspective. Remembering that fact, and acting on it, will improve your competence.

Be aware of what you know, and even more importantly, of what you don’t know.

It’s OK to answer a question with “I don’t know.” Ignorance is far preferable to incompetence, because ignorance can be remedied very easily by finding out the answer. But if you fail to admit you don’t know, and give someone the wrong answer, that is much more difficult to correct and can cause severe consequential damages.

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--Ralph Marston

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